Last week, I wrote on the subject of criticism of others and interestingly received plenty of feedback. One man said to me that if leaders were not doing their job of reigning in bad doctrine, bad conduct or sin in the church, then someone had to. He also suggested that this it was fair and reasonable to engage in public criticism in such cases because comments he was upset about were made in a public forum. I shared his concern with the detail of what he was seeing, but could not agree with his response to it. Here’s why.
1. A biblical standard exists in Matthew 18:15-20 regarding the need to speak first with people who offend us. Referring beyond that involves the right people and a solution-focused approach. Criticisms and complaints are often warranted, but the process is important.
2. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-7, Paul encourages Christians to avoid a public show of disunity and suggests that people prefer to be wronged. This requires tremendous humility and restraint. Public attacks contravene this intent, especially when on the say-so of individuals.
4. Acts 20:27-31 encourages watching and warning, but this is Paul as a leader speaking to elders of the church. Leaders are to enact this responsibility and individuals simply cannot assume the right to fill any perceived void.
Even when Ephesians 5:11 seems to endorse exposing works of darkness, the context is about the fact that the light of God in us is what logically exposes sin (verse 13) and this says nothing about attacking other Christians. To contend for the Gospel cannot be at the expense of its very requirements of godly conduct.
Finally, the Bible encourages searching the Scriptures to check the accuracy of teaching (as in Acts 17:11), but this is an instruction for the benefit and counsel of the individual and in no way endorses public criticism as a valid response.